The third outing by adventurous violinist Jason Kao Hwang’s avant-chamber-jazz group Edge, Crossroads Unseen, consists of five pieces showcasing the stunning extended vocabulary of each member of the quartet. The seemingly narrow palette of violin/viola, cornet/flugelhorn, bass and percussion thus offers an aesthetic journey through a range of textures and influences on each of the 10-minute-plus tracks.
Hwang’s writing has long combined complex contemporary music forms with influences from traditional Asian musics, not as a hybrid exoticism but as a pathway into new discoveries. From the skittering intensity of opener “Elemental Determination” through the interweaving ascensions of “One Day,” the fruits of that exploration are evident, both in the higher-order tapestries of the pieces themselves and in the intricately crafted playing that they inspire.
Hwang’s swooping, soaring solo kicks things off on the first cut, to which Taylor Ho Bynum responds with tightly coiled feints and darts. Hwang and Bynum’s raspy bursts accompany Ken Filiano’s harshly bowed bass, finally fading into Andrew Drury’s sledgehammer barrage.
“The Path Around the House” consists of diverse cells, evocative scrapes and moans suddenly erupting into a particularly insistent swing, Bynum’s wildfire flugelhorn calmed by the hushed intimacy of Filiano’s unaccompanied bass/vocal turn. “Transients” takes almost as many unpredictable turns, all maintaining a more languorous pace and allowing for time to feel suspended, floating. With Edge, Hwang composes with ideas, each one advanced and expanded upon by his adeptly attuned ensemble.